Johnny Depp sports his perennial cowboy hat, neatly trimmed beard and wearing a simple white T-shirt and jeans. Back on deck as Captain Jack Sparrow in the continuing exploits of the Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp is consistently charming, in good humour and clearly relishes his pirate within. It may have taken this surprising actor almost two decades to find fame and fortune in mainstream Hollywood, but the actor is philosophical about his varying degrees of success, as he disclosed to our Los Angeles correspondent.
Question: Why is this character one you can revisit over and over?
Depp: I just feel like I’m not done. I just feel like there are more things you could do. Because, I suppose, with a character like this, the parameters are a little broader, so there are more possibilities I think And he’s a fun character to play. I was really not looking forward to saying goodbye to him.
Question: Any pirate adventures you still want to do, not touched on in part three yet?
Depp: Time travel, why not? No, I don’t know. Ted and Terry, the writers, and Gore, what they were able to do on the first one and then taking that to what they’ve done now with the second one and then going into the third, it’s pretty amazing. We’re getting close to just even stretching the boundaries a bit more.
Question: How much freedom do you have to improvise?
Depp: I think with everything you do, it’s always- – you have the basic structure, you have your basic bones and a solid foundation. But with every one, you do your best to kind of explore it as much as possible while you’re shooting. It could be something that comes to you, like sometimes it just comes to me when I’m reading a script. A line will just come to me and I’ll incorporate it into the thing and obviously run it by Ted and Terry and Gore and the other actors certainly. So it can happen that way or it can just happen in the spur of the moment which is more fun in a way, when something just happens because if you feel it and you do it in a big, wide master shot, it alters the rhythm for a second and it kind of throws the thing, takes the bottom out from under you for a second which is quite fun because you sort of see honest reactions all around. People panic for a second, and that kind of panic is fun and I think important, good for you.
Question: The executives panicked the first time. Did the audience prove you right?
Depp: The executives did panic. I mean, bless ’em, they did panic on the first one. And probably to some degree for good reason. But also, I think it’s prerequisite to become an executive, you have to have that capability to panic instantly and do your best to resolve it as quickly as possible. So breaking the thing yourself and then fixing it so you look good it was a case on the first one where I was totally supported by a few in the sort of close knit group. Like Gore was a great support during that time but really it was a case where the audience, the viewers actually came in and they were the ones that saved me.
Question: Were you surprised it became so popular, that you’re a crowd pleaser now?
Depp: I was definitely never a crowd pleaser. May not be after this one, you never know. I was very surprised, incredibly surprised, still am that Pirates did as well as it did and that the character made some friends out there. I am still surprised and touched.
Question: Why did it strike a chord?
Depp: I think- – I’ve said for a long time, I for the most part had in terms of commercial success or box office bonanzas, I had about 20 years of sort of studio defined failures. To me they were all great successes because we got them done. In terms of what struck a chord with Pirates, I said for a long time and I really believe that studios were underestimating the intelligence of the audience or their needs. I think that people want to- – I mean, you go to the movies to be stimulated certainly, but you don’t go to the movies to know what the end is going to be. You want to be stimulated so I think that it was such a kind of different angle, that film, that people were ready for that kind of thing. That hyper kind of realism, the action sequences were insane. It wasn’t something they’ve seen all that much I think. I believe that’s what it was.
Question: Is Tim Burton still doing Edgar Allen Poe with you?
Depp: No, not that I’ve heard of but boy, that’s an exciting possibility. We’ve been talking about doing Sweeney Todd together which is very exciting.
Question: How close is that?
Depp: Don’t know. Tim and I talked about it a long time ago actually, or the possibility a long time ago so now the people who panic are panicking.
Question: It is the musical version?
Depp: I’m assuming.
Question: Do you sing?
Depp: Not yet.
Question: What was it like to stay in character when you went home to your family?
Depp: See, I’m never aware of it, that I’m in character. It never feels like I’m in character. It always feels like you have those moments just before the take and it kind of winds down after the scene is done.
Question: Did you wear the dreadlocks to bed?
Depp: No, I did not, no. There’s still time. We’ve still got to finish 3.
Question: You laugh about the apprehension towards you now- –
Depp: I laughed way before that.
Question: Are you at peace with the frustrations of the industry, were you always?
Depp: I’ll tell you what made it a lot easier to roll with the punches for me was having kids, or at least even before really. Knowing that I was going to be having a kid. That put a lot of things in perspective for me, like instant perspective. I think for a number of years, I was frustrated by the whole thing. I didn’t understand any of it. But in terms of success or career or all that stuff, it never made any great deal of sense to me so I guess, yeah, when I found out Vanessa and I were going to have a baby, you find out what’s important like [snaps fingers] real quick.
Question: Was that a maturity for you, or camaraderie?
Depp: It was more like just finally understanding what it was all about for me, really. Because for years, there were the two things. there was the sort of business of Hollywood and the business and the business of that career and people saying, ‘Well, you have to do this kind of movie because you’ve got to make money because you’ve got to do this and that.’ And I always felt like, you know, ‘Money is all it’s about, well, hopefully it’ll come at some point. But if it doesn’t, that’s all right. I know that I’ve done the things that I felt were right in terms of movies and stuff.’ So it was that sort of business thing. And then there was work which I’ve always just done what felt right to me, so I don’t know. I never really had any problem. The only problem I ever had in terms of frustration with the industry and Hollywood and stuff was basically I didn’t think they understood the movies that I did and I think they didn’t know how to sell them properly because they didn’t know how to label them. And if you can’t label the product, it’s sort of this vague thing. If you don’t understand the product, you can’t sell it and they couldn’t sell it.
Question: You’ve done a lot of really inventive characters- –
Depp: You’re saying I’m a weirdo?
Question: Have you ever thought of playing a straight romantic character? Or am I missing something?
Depp: It’s probably me missing something. I’m probably missing a lot. For example, Donnie Brasco was one that I felt was a straight-ish- –
Question: He was pretending to be someone else.
Depp: Yeah, but I guess in terms of playing like a straight leading man type thing, I feel like all these guys are kind of not necessarily leading men but straight kind of characters. Even though they may seem bizarre or strange, I feel like I think everybody’s nuts. I mean, I really do. And the weirdest thing in the world is to see some guy who is just super earnest. He’s probably crazier than any of the guys I’ve played. And as far as really doing that, it would have to make sense to me somehow. It’d have to be something underneath for me to make that work. Otherwise, there are a bunch of guys out there, actors, actor types who do that kind of thing very well. I don’t think I could for myself. I’ve got to have- – there’s got to be a bunch of different things going on, layers to stuff.
Question: Now that it’s almost over, are you getting sad again?
Depp: No. I figure because we’ve got a few more months to go. It’s the home stretch so I think probably the last month I’ll start going into that deep, dark depression.
Question: Do you have the rights to the Nick Hornby book?
Depp: Oh, A Long Way Down. I don’t know that I’ll be acting in it but just kind of hoping to get it made I suppose.
Question: They’re doing a 21 Jump Street movie- –
Depp: I think it’s a great idea.
Question: Are you far enough past it that you’d do a cameo?
Question: He speaks very highly of you.
Depp: Does he? He didn’t then. No.
Question: He hopes you’ll come back.
Depp: Well, I certainly- – why don’t I just go back and play- – it’d be good at 42. That would be interesting. To go back and play the same character I played 20 years ago with no one saying anything. A bunch of people going, they don’t’ say anything to him but they talk behind his back, ‘Is he out of his mind? He’s really old now but he thinks he’s still young.’ That, I would love to play.
Question: How do you enjoy being part of the Disney ride?
Depp: Boy, that’s so exciting. I’ve only seen like they showed me the drawings and the plans for what it might be.